beth israel deaconess medical center a harvard medical school teaching hospital

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Lewis C. Cantley, Ph.D.
Chief Dr. Cantley

Lewis C. Cantley, PhD , is a Professor of Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School and Chief of the Division of Signal Transduction at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Dr. Cantley graduated suma cum laude with a BS in chemistry from W.V. Wesleyan College in 1971 and obtained a PhD in Biophysical Chemistry from Cornell University in 1975. He did postdoctoral research at Harvard from 1975 till 1978 and joined the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology as an assistant professor in 1978.

His early work focused on the structure and mechanism of enzymes that transport small molecules across cell membranes and he pioneered the application of fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) for studying such processes. His early studies also led to the discovery that vanadate can act as a high affinity transition state analog inhibitor of enzymes with phosphorylated intermediates. In the mid 1980s, Dr. Cantley focused his research on biochemical mechanisms of cellular responses to hormones and growth factors. This work led to the discovery of the phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) signaling pathway. His subsequent research as a Professor at Tufts University School of Medicine (1985-1992) and at Harvard Medical School (1992-present) has focused on characterizing the mechanism by which PI3K is activated by growth factors and oncogenes and elucidating pathways downstream of PI3K, including the AKT/PKB signaling pathway. In the course of this work, Dr. Cantley's laboratory  developed an oriented peptide library approach that has revealed the structural basis for regulated interaction of signaling proteins. This technique has also led to a bioinformatics approach for predicting signaling pathways on the basis of gene sequences. Currently, Dr. Cantley is exploring the role of the PI3K pathway in cancer and diabetes by developing mouse models in which genes for enzymes in this pathway are altered.

Dr. Cantley was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1999 and to the National Academy of Sciences in 2001. Among his other awards are the ASBMB Avanti Award for Lipid Research (1998), the Heinrich Weiland Preis for Lipid Research (2000), the Caledonian Prize from the Royal Society of Edinburgh (2002) and the 2005 Pezcoller Foundation-AACR International Award for Cancer Research.  He is a member of the Editorial Board at Cell and the Journal of Cell Biology.